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Stars Fall 5-3 to Anaheim Ducks

No way to sugar coat it, that one was painful.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night in Anaheim, the Dallas Stars faced off against the Anaheim Ducks for game 81 of the season. The Stars were coming off a big road win in San Jose featuring a perfect relief performance from Mike McKenna and a natural hat trick from captain Jamie Benn. The Ducks, meanwhile, have clinched a playoff berth and have only to determine their standing. Their win tonight keeps them in the fight for home ice in the first round.

Roster decisions for the Stars include McKenna getting a chance at the start and Brett Ritchie up on the first line with Benn and Tyler Seguin. Why go with a winning line combination when you can give Ritchie top line minutes instead? The good news: this line did not last.

First period

I said on Tuesday that they’ve had worse first period and it’s still true, but this one was pretty painful. The Stars had the first great chance of the game on a long pass between Julius Honka, Jason Spezza, and Mattias Janmark. Like, the kind of passing that dreams are made of. But Ryan Miller stopped it.

Play headed the other way, John Klingberg lost the puck in the neutral zone, and Esa Lindell bit hard on Josh Manson. Klingberg never got all the way back in front of the play, and Jakob Silfverberg ended up all alone in front of McKenna. Hard to blame McKenna for that kind of broken defensive play. Especially when he stoned Corey Perry on the next shift.

In an aborted and frustrated effort to break up Ducks possession, Alexander Radulov took a slashing penalty against Ryan Getzlaf, and the Ducks took full advantage of the ensuing power play. And again, it felt like a lot of sloppy defensive play from the Stars, though McKenna didn’t help matters with his positioning. Still, Rcikard Rakell should not have had two attempts from the high danger zone.

The Stars brought the tally within one with Marc Methot’s first goal of the season.

Some great passing by Radulov and Benn, and it was Methot’s first goal of the season, first as a Star, and first regular season goal since March 19, 2016.

Unfortunately, the joy of this goal was short lived. Brett Ritchie took a frustrating penalty, because it was so obviously not allowed. Ondrej Kase was in the middle of checking another Stars player and didn’t have possession of the puck. He wasn’t eligible to be checked. Which was why Ritchie ended up in the box and the Stars ended up on the penalty kill again.

This one, they killed. But they never gained possession after the penalty was over and Derek Grant scored at 5 on 5.

Second Period

Still trying to find joy in this game. How frustrating was the second period? The Stars second shot on goal came seven minutes in. The Ducks had many more shots on goal than that.

The Ducks struck first in the middle frame. Corey Perry picked off a pass and carried it up ice into the Stars zone. He drop passed it to Getzlaf, who took a shot that McKenna stopped. But no one was there to grab the rebound, and instead Josh Manson swooped in for the easy goal.

Three minutes later in the period, Tyler Pitlick did a lot of work behind the net to get the puck out to Greg Pateryn on the point, who took a long shot that Radek Faksa redirected into the net.

There were only two goals in the second, but there were another two penalties taken by the Stars. And it’s hard to emphasize how much the Stars need to stop taking bone headed penalties when they can only drum up enough offense to get 12 shots on goal through two periods. This period it was only 5. The Ducks ended the second with 28.

Mattias Janmark, by the way, is the only one with more than one shot on goal, and he seemed snake bit tonight with two of the best scoring chances that didn’t result in goals.

Third period

The Stars finally showed up to play in the third period, but it was ultimately too little too late. They finally started to catch up in shots on goal in total, and wildly outshot the Ducks in the third period. Jamie Benn scored his 33rd of the season on this beautiful effort:

The Stars finally got a penalty call in their favor on an interference call against Nick Ritchie, which was an interesting one for the refs to make, since Remi Elie did actually play the puck, meaning it wasn’t actually interference. Make up call? Maybe.

Either way, the Stars didn’t score on that power play.

In one of the sequences down in front of McKenna, Andrew Cogliano had a point blank chance that McKenna stopped. The Stars then turned over the puck in the neutral zone, and Cogliano ended up scoring on the breakaway this turnover afforded him.

And that was the game, 5-3 in Anaheim.

Positives: Mike McKenna was actually way more solid in goal than the score suggests. He was hung out to dry on multiple occasions by his entire team. Before the Stars woke up in the third, his save percentage was way better than Ryan Miller’s.

And finally:

Stars are in Los Angeles tomorrow against the Kings.